‘What global investors are looking for in Nigeria’
With the actual realisation of gains from the nation’s “potential” narrative still a pipe dream, global investors may be watching by the side to gauge what Nigeria’s unending corruption issues and respect for the rule of law would become.
Indeed, such a cautious approach by the million-dollar investors would be, on the one hand, lost opportunities and on the other hand, delayed expectations of an economy that had long desired such harbingers of growth and development.
The Chairman of the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), Lord Jonathan Marland of Odstock, said the issues of corruption across spheres in the country and obedience to rule of law must be sorted out to attract global investors.
The council, already working with about 20 partners in Nigeria, he said, sustained efforts to promote trade within the commonwealth countries, but can only get better when investors they invite to the country, like in other nations, are given full assurance.
According to him, some of the top businesses here in Nigeria and some state governments are joining in the plans for the next commonwealth business forum, which will hold in Rwanda.
“So, we are looking at how we can involve Nigeria in the next business forum and make available networking opportunities. We are also looking at how we can help the government to develop some of its projects, with a view to attracting outside investments into Nigeria.
“I think that the corruption reforms that Nigeria’s President embarked upon on assumption of office are exactly the right thing to do. Investors who want to invest in a country like to see transparency because if there is less transparency, it will lead to less clarity and then you would have less confidence.
“Investment potential in Nigeria is limitless as there is a massive opportunity, but the key message Nigeria has to have is how the opportunities are and what sort of environment would work for the investments. This will include rules of engagement and I think that is key for any country seeking investments,” he said.
While some of the council’s members are into oil and gas, Marland noted that CWEIC is also helping the Nigerian economy to diversify into other areas, by developing and working with Nigerian banks and medium-sized enterprises, in helping them to develop a trade network.
“Well, we have a combination of attracting inflow of money and other forms of investments, but some will be based on what we are looking at in Nigeria, that is, the investment opportunities.
“Of course, there are lots of schemes that we would like to work with, particularly in the construction area and if there are investment opportunities, we would work with them. If there is a manufacturing company here, then we would try to help open markets, introducing you to commonwealth markets, something you were not aware of.
“Nigeria is a populous country and has a big economy, which is attractive for manufacturers. We create enterprise, investment opportunities and bring about a global network.
“The commonwealth is the third of the world’s population and within it includes Nigeria and other large economies, so if you could bring them together, then you have an incredibly powerful trading group, particularly if the common theme is English, which means that you do not need to translate.
“We have people working and have invested heavily in Nigeria and so, this means that we have a common bond through the language, which includes 53 countries,” he said.
Marland also noted that the council had opened talks with the Nigerian government, Akwa Ibom and Lagos states, hoping to open more dialogue with other states.
“I think one of the interesting things in the dialogue so far is how we as a network, can encourage the government to continue to adopt a positive approach to businesses.
“The potential is huge and what we do is to bring people who might take up the opportunities together and allow them to do it. So, while we are not an investment house, we are a network organisation, plugging into a very big number of organisations, bringing people together.
“As I said earlier, the opportunities in Nigeria are huge and 10 years from now, the country will have a bigger population than the United States. When I meet Nigerians, a large portion of them are natural entrepreneurs, business leaders and so there is the basis for Nigeria becoming this extraordinary partner.
“But it will require infrastructures, which the current government is seemingly embarking upon. But there is much more need for effective business practices, and when you have that, you will have greater investment.
“People are worried about corruption and worried about the state of the rule of law. Every investor wants to know if the investment will be secured and want to know if they get into a dispute, whether the rule of law will be enforced and emphatically underlined. These are where Nigeria’s message should emphasise more,” he said.
According to him, Nigeria is probably the council’s strongest foothold in the commonwealth and because as a nation, you see the country has potential.
Speaking of countries in the Commonwealth that are interested in investing in Nigeria, he said India, United Kingdom, and Singapore top the list, as the country is growing in population, making opportunities abound.
But the CWEIC’s Country Head for Nigeria, Obinna Anyanwu, said the council could also work out opportunities for investors in the nation’s agriculture sector when approached by the Nigerian government to discuss how they can develop a programme.
“This is the sort of thing we do for our members and if they wish to talk about that, they know we can be of help to them. So, we are very happy to engage the government and state governments but they have to come to the party,” he said.
He also agreed that the council works with the target. “I would say if you are dealing with 53 countries, you would have some targets that are met and some not met, but on the whole, we are a very organised association and we have been going on for five years, so our network is increasing alongside our membership.
“We have met our targets, but we have not been able to make enough traction with the Nigerian government, as we would have liked to develop several programmes.
“Next year, we will have our African conference in January. We will then move to Saudi Arabia in March and then head to the India summit in the spring, hopefully, June will see us in Rwanda.
“Part of what we do is to allow the government to showcase what is going on in the country and so, we will continue to encourage Nigeria, as well as the state governments to start using investment opportunities, which they can offer to international investors.
“You have got the roads here in Lagos and these are obviously down to development planners and it is encouraging that the Nigerian government is investing in infrastructure projects so as to get Nigeria going on the front, to be efficient and more functional and these projects make it more efficient and functional,” he added.